HENB01391U English - Elective 2, topic 1: Staging the Crisis: On the pre-history of post-dramatic theatre

Volume 2017/2018



At the centre of this course are three iconic post-war plays, traditionally associated with the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ and thus with an existentialist reaction to times of political and artistic crisis, loss of values and the breakdown of language and meaning. We will question this interpretation by looking at them anew from different angles. In particular, we will study drama theory and philosophical readings, and reflect upon the fact that these plays are the works of cosmopolitan outsiders (with Irish and Jewish Central European backgrounds) in a stagnant post-war (British) society – who were not rewarded with Nobel prizes and other accolades until much later. We will also examine concrete theatre productions and film adaptations. Prior to taking this class, students should familiarise themselves with Shakespeare’s Hamlet and, ideally, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot/En attendant Godot, but this is not a strict requirement. An interest in philosophical questioning and a passion for literary language will be helpful.

Provisional reading list: Samuel Beckett, Endgame/Fin de Partie; Harold Pinter, The Birthday Party; Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead; philosophical essays (e.g. Iris Murdoch, Theodor W. Adorno, Stanley Cavell); drama theory (e.g. Martin Esslin, Peter Szondi, Hans-Thies Lehmann); selected critical literature.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 162,75
  • Total
  • 204,75
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment